‘Better to Be Safe and Wrong’

Earlier this week, a milkman named Charles Carl Roberts IV walked into a schoolhouse in Amish Pennsylvania and shot 10 young girls, killing five of them. Roberts’s wife was shocked by his behavior and told police she had no idea her husband was troubled until she discovered a suicide note that morning. Co-workers were equally stunned, although some told police they noticed Roberts had recently stopped chatting and joking, becoming quiet and sullen. Would anyone have been able been able to foresee Roberts’s explosive behavior? NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, to find out. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Is there any way to tell beforehand that someone is going to commit a violent act?Jeffrey Lieberman: Usually with violent crime, there’s a certain motive or rationale—crimes of passion, crimes of envy or revenge—related to some set of circumstances that are understandable….

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